AAFO.COM First Look Preview
 
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Graphic detail creates a need for computer system power...

For example, the handling of the "ground rush" shows a particularly creative approach to this. Ahead of you, the ground is quite detailed...

...meaning you need more computing power to display it well and still achieve a decent frame rate for playability.

As you approach the ground ahead of you and it becomes the part of your vision that —in real life would be peripheral— it blurs into a far less detailed mass.

Viewed when the sim is paused, you see the developers logic. The solution offers not only a way to give the forward view depth and realism —as an actual view at those speeds and height above ground would provide— but also, the ground would be in total focus ahead of you and then blur as you got closer.

This offers a way to use less total computing power on the terrain portion of the visual, less detailed, or blurred side vision, equals less power to render and display it to you with the added benefit of increased realism...

...i.e., as ground rush!

No matter how you slice up the duties for your graphic processor and CPU, detailed computer graphic displays will likely be the most demanding thing your home PC will do for you and Xtreme Air Racing is no exception to this rule. Victory Interactive has taken some traditional, as well as creative approaches, in order to make Xtreme Air Racing playable on the broad spectrum of hardware available today.

Graphic detail options begin on the load-up screen for Xtreme Air Racing, where you can choose 640x480 low-res; 800x600 med-res; 1024x768 high-res or super-high-res 1280x1024. At this point, you also make the choice for your video card.. Xtreme Air Racing is optimized for both Glide (3DFX) and Open GL (Nvidia)

Once inside Xtreme Air Racing, you have more options to tune the simulation to your particular system. As with any highly detailed 3D graphic intense simulation or game, if you run Xtreme Air Racing at the super-high-res setting and turn all other options to the highest settings, as you might expect, it will take a bit of a powerhouse system to yield consistently high frame rates.

We found our best results by running our system resolution at 1280x1024 but then setting Xtreme Air Racing to 1024x768.. Though I’m not sure we gained anything by mixing the system and Xtreme Air Racing settings, the result is a level of detail that is very pleasing to the eye and frame rates that were nearly always over the 20-25 fps range...quite smooth and very good looking.

Xtreme Air Racing offers a broad selection of graphic options that should fit most current setups.

All of this said, let’s fire up and jump in for a few laps around the worlds fastest race course, the Reno Stead Airport!

After waiting for nearly five years to get this simulation in my hands, when my preview copy arrived I could scarcely believe my eyes as I made tracks for my desktop to install it…

Could this be real? Was I finally going to get to fly this!?

I’ll have to admit, I was in such a hurry to see Xtreme Air Racing that I did not even bother to dust off my stick/throttle/pedals "HOTAS" setup…I ran it "raw" with no controllers hooked up at all.

I can also say that it did not take me more than a quick look to turn it back off, dust off my "stuff," and get into the "cockpit." Watching is fun and you can certainly do that with Xtreme Air Racing’s many options for viewing a race, but I wanted to feel it as you can only do by flying it

From the first screen in Xtreme Air Racing, you are offered a list of choices including: fly a race season; free flight; single race; setup; pilot roster and…what will be most racers' favorite option: multi-player!

But for now, let’s just suit up and jump in for a quick single race. Clicking on this option brings you to a selection screen, offering you a choice of some very well known racers seen regularly at the Reno National Championship Air Races, along with some airplanes from Air Races past.

Filling out your choices are some generic types...Sea Furys, Corsairs, P-38’s and of course, P-51 Mustangs.

From here you can go to the aircraft setup screens where, among other things, you can change engines, prop length, prop blades, gear reduction, wing length and other potential choices, all aimed at setting up your airplane to achieve the best speeds possible; and perhaps —more importantly— to finish the race.

For my first excursion on the course at Reno, I chose an airplane not seen in many years at Reno...a beautiful recreation of a white Lockheed P-38 Lightning, very reminiscent of Lefty Gardener's "White Lightnin’."

The race begins with a countdown from the numbers five to zero. The Xtreme Air Racer needs to be ready to fly when zero is reached and the pace plane pilot utters those famous words: "Gentlemen you have a race!" In that moment, you are taken from the relative calm of the starting position directly into the race itself.

At this stage in development, engine damage effects were not yet turned on, so my strategy was to firewall the throttle.

Victory’s Pat Hunt informs us that this will not necessarily work in the final version of Xtreme Air Racing. Engine management will be a key factor in finishing races. Just as in real life, if you pull too much out of your engine, Xtreme Air Racing will extract a penalty — engine failure and a dead-stick landing will be the price you pay.

Even this may not save you from the dreaded "Mayday," as a "random failure" mode will be installed in the final version of Xtreme Air Racing. As in real life, even the best engine on the race course can have unexpected problems. This "bug" may bite you; it may bite your on-line, multi-player opponents; or, if flying against the computer pilots (AI) within the simulation, it just might hit one of them.

Likewise, the random failure mode may not strike for many playings of the sim. Just as in real life, you’ll never know the failure is coming until it hits you, or some other unlucky pilot on the race course.

(Authors note: as of the time of this writing, we have received a later build that has the engine damage feature enabled and you *DO* have to watch how hard you run the airplanes!)

We're back in the cockpit now, rounding pylon one, and the words of Sport Class Racing instructor pilot, Dave Morss, are ringing in my ears:

"You can always tell a new pilot on the course, they climb on the turns."

Dave is absolutely right, as this "rookie" needed both some training and rudder input to keep from gaining altitude and losing speed.

The Xtreme Air Racer will want some sort of rudder device to fly Xtreme Air Racing, since the alpha version was absent keyboard input for rudder deflection and— even if it did have it— the maximum "full-on/full-off control" available from a keyboard rudder control would definitely not do in this situation!

Deft movement of the rudder control, coordinated with smooth control stick input, is a must to round the pylons with any measure of grace.

This control finesse is a switch from combat simulation flying, where gross control movements are not generally detrimental to your objective; an objective that —in this case— is the smoothest line around the pylons and the entire race course.

Which brings me to my first lap on the course in the white P-38, feeling like a really hot throttle jockey, with my power lever pushed all the way forward. In the back of my mind, I’m thinking… "Yeah... I can smoke this course" … NOT!

I quickly realize that I have not a single clue where the next pylon is, or the line to it... but hey, I’m in a white P-38 and there’s a crowd down there so, why not?

...I pull up out of the way of the other airplanes and begin to entertain the crowd below with my rendition of Lefty Gardener's aerobatic routine. Admittedly, quite a bit more sloppy than anything he’s ever shown us at Reno…

So much for that race! >>continue

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